The One Piece of Workout Equipment All of My Clients Need

My clients often ask me, “What equipment should I have at home to help me with my fitness goals?” My answer is always the same-

Get a foam roller.

Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gain, or increased endurance, a foam roller will help you reach your goals by preventing injuries and improving post-workout recovery.  

Because of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and lack of mobility, a majority of my new clients come to me with sore knees or backs before even starting a workout program.  Luckily, most of these minor aches and pains go away quickly with a little extra focus on stretching and mobility by using the foam roller daily.

I describe foam rolling to my clients as a deep tissue massage that you get to do daily, at home, on your own, for free.  Foam rollers massage knots out of your muscles in order to allow those muscles to stretch and move correctly.  When muscles are correctly mobile you are less likely to get injured during your workout or even during your daily routine. 

Additionally, foam rolling can improve circulation and reduce post-workout muscle soreness.

I recommend using the foam roller every morning to help you move and feel better throughout your day. Also, always use it before your workouts.  You’ll want to roll on it for about 20-30 seconds per muscle, ideally after a short cardio warm up.

To warm up the lower body I like using a foam roller as a part of Joe DeFranco’s “Limber 11”.  He combines the foam rolling with a lower body mobility series that really gets your muscles ready to move. 

My favorite way to warm-up the upper body on the foam roller is a chest stretch.  Many people have poor posture with a rounded upper back and tight chest and shoulder muscles.  Simply laying on the roller with arms out to the side at 90 degrees, or “cactus arms”, trying to touch hands and elbows to the floor is a great way to open up those muscles.  Most of my clients love a little extra assistance from me with this one.

Be aware that when you find a tight spot, foam rolling can feel a bit tender.  That is okay and is a sign you’ve found a muscle that is overly tight and needs to be stretched. When that knot starts to relax the rolling will feel less intense.  All of my clients feel and move so much better after our time on the roller.

Not all foam rollers are created equal. Some are too soft and don’t do much for helping to relax tight muscles. Others are so hard and bumpy they make you wanna slap yo momma (or your trainer). Some are too short to use for the chest stretch.  I find this one from Amazon to be just right – AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller | 36-inches, Black, $19.99.

Now, Roll with it!

Top Supplements For Women – Bonus Number 7

There is one more super beneficial supplement that you don’t see on my Top 6 Supplements for Women – Probiotics.

Probiotics have been a part of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diets for thousands of years, in the form of fermented unpasteurized milk and vegetable products such as pickles and sauerkraut.

I didn’t include them in my original post only because I get mine through drinking my homebrewed Kombucha and eating fermented foods a few times per week, so I don’t currently take them as a supplement.

Unfortunately most people don’t get them in the modern American diet so I wanted to make sure to include them as Bonus Number 7 Top Supplement for Women.

#7 – Probiotics

People with deficient good gut bacteria or “probiotics” can experience food allergies, decreased immune function, asthma, and digestive issues.  Probiotics conquer potentially dangerous organisms in the intestine, improve immune response, and suppress excessive inflammation. Additionally, probiotics promote the function of the intestinal inner lining to help nutrient absorption.

Due to modern diets, lifestyle, pollution, and the use of antibiotics, the beneficial bacteria in your microbiome is at risk and many people are deficient.

I recommend Garden of Life Raw Probiotics for Women. They are specifically formulated for women with benefits including bowel and digestive regularity, colon health, and vaginal health. Also the ingredients in this supplement are high quality and contain no fillers.  It’s best to take 3 capsules per day, one with each meal.

Again, it’s important to combine any recommended supplements with a nutritious diet for optimum health.  And feel free to check with your trusted healthcare provider before starting a new supplement.

Top 6 Supplements for Women

After having my second child I felt completely drained and my immune system didn’t seem to be working very well.  I would get any illness going around and it would knock me out for a couple of weeks. I had a hard time recovering from my workouts and my periods were intense.  I had never felt so rundown.   I decided to get some blood work done to have my levels checked.  The results showed I was low in vitamin D and iron.  I was still taking a prenatal multi-vitamin but obviously it wasn’t working. 

Why was my multi not cutting it?  Well, research is starting to show multivitamins are not effective.  Multivitamin manufacturers generally throw the top 24 vitamins and minerals in a single pill and market it to the public, but that’s not really how nutrition works. Some vitamins and minerals are best taken at night while some are best taken in the morning.  Some vitamins and minerals are much more effective when taken with food and some on an empty stomach.  Additionally, most multi-vitamins are poorly manufactured and sourced based on cheaper cost rather than quality ingredients.

With brand recommendation from my doctor and a local health food store, I found the top-rated vitamin D and iron supplements, started taking them, and began to feel a little better. But I knew there was more I needed to support my over-stressed, under-rested, baby-making system.  I started looking for the best supplements for women, focusing on boosting the immune system, maintaining heart health, balancing hormones, and supporting mental well-being.  Here are what I found to be the top 6 supplements to meet those needs:

Vitamin D

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include fatigue, depression, weak bones, and frequent illness. Natural forms are made from cholesterol in the body in a reaction involving sunshine. Unfortunately, with our increasingly indoor lifestyles we are not getting enough sun to produce as much as we need.  As many as 70% of women tested are low in levels of vitamin D.    When taken along with zinc at the first sign of a cold the combination is known to reduce the severity and duration. Vitamin D is best taken in the morning with food. I take 5,000 IUs daily of Naturewise Vitamin D3.


Symptoms of zinc deficiency can be slow healing, digestive issues, acne or eczema, depression, lethargy, and anxiety. Zinc has been shown to reduce period cramps and improve mood. It is estimated that 25% of the world is deficient in zinc due to the composition of the modern diet and declining soil conditions.  Zinc is best taken in the morning after food and should not be taken at the same time as calcium or iron because they can affect absorption.  I take 15 mg per day of Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate.


Symptoms of vitamin K2 deficiency include easy bruising and heavy periods.  Vitamin K2 has been shown to help with bone strength, prevent tooth decay, and protect against heart disease. It helps your body deposit calcium in your bones instead of arteries.  I prefer Green Pasture Vitamin Oil blend because it includes concentrated butter oil which has naturally occurring vitamins A, D, E and K2, as well as fermented cod liver oil that has heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. K2 is best taken with food containing fat.  I take two capsules of Green Pasture Blue Ice Royal Blend with lunch.


Signs of CoQ10 deficiency can be fatigue, muscle weakness, and chest pain.  CoQ10 is an antioxidant and breaks down free radicals that can damage cells in the body. It helps convert food to energy. It promotes heart and brain health and has been shown to reduce heart disease.  People have also noticed improvements with exercise induced asthma and migraine headaches when taking CoQ10.  CoQ10 needs to be taken with food. I take 100 mg of Healthwise Naturals Ultimate CoQ10 Ubiquinol with lunch.


Signs of iron deficiency can include tiredness, irritability, hair loss and dizziness.  Iron is an essential nutrient that carries oxygen from your lungs throughout your body.  Proper iron levels can improve brain function, help muscles stay strong, improve immune function, and improve sleep.  Coffee, tea and dairy products adversely affect iron’s absorption.  Iron also interferes with the absorption of zinc.  Since most people drink coffee in the morning, iron is best taken the afternoon 30 minutes before eating. I like Floradix Liquid Iron and Vitamins. It contains iron, vitamins B2, B6, B12 and C all from plant sources.  Plant-sourced iron can help avoid nausea associated with some other iron supplements.  I take 15 ml of Floradix before dinner, only around my cycle now that I am not iron deficient.


Signs of magnesium deficiency can be poor sleep and anxiety.  Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the human body including muscle and nerve function and protein synthesis.  Additionally, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D work together to help metabolize fat.  The majority of people tested are magnesium deficient.  The recommended dose is 315 mg per day.  Magnesium is best taken at least 2 hours after eating.  I take mine in the form of a yummy Natural Calm Magnesium raspberry lemonade drink before bed.

Now after taking these vitamins I rarely get sick and when I do I can kick it in a few days.  My periods are shorter and lighter.  I can recover from my workouts in a day or two no problem.  I’ve also noticed improvements in my energy level, mood, and sleep.  I’ve had multiple clients let me know how much better they feel shortly after beginning this vitamin regimen as well. 

Of course it’s important to combine these recommended supplements with a nutritious diet for optimum health.  And as with anything you are concerned about, feel free to check with your trusted healthcare provider before starting a new vitamin regimen.

The Balancing Act of Mommy Self-care

Self-care is super important. The saying is true: You can’t pour from an empty cup. You are able to help others around you more when you are happy and healthy – mind, body and soul.  With many stressors throughout our day it takes intentional effort to find positive things that counteract stress and make you feel calm and centered.

For me it was fitness, yoga, happy hour with friends, and maybe a day at the spa. That was until I had children.  I didn’t realize how much I relied on those things for my mental and emotional well-being until after I had kids.  Until then they were just a part of my routine.

After having my first child, I no longer had the time or flexibility to have much of a self-care routine. However, I found that if I could just get a shower, a nap, and a small workout all in one day I would feel like a person again for a little bit.  So that became my goal.  Some days I could get one or two of them, occasionally none at all, but those days I could get all three were amazing and would recharge my soul.   

Then, after having my second child two years later, I had that same small self-care goal: shower, workout and nap… And let me tell you they did not happen often.  Between the exhaustion from having my second poor sleeper, working around a toddler and baby schedule, trying to be a good part-time employee and full-time mom, and limited funds, my self-care went out the window.  It hit me like a freight train how important self-care was when I had none at all. I was trying to pour from an empty cup and as much as I’d like to think I hid it well, I’m pretty sure everyone around me could tell.  Lack of self-care does a number on my patience!

I had to adjust and redefine my self-care again before I lost myself completely.

It took some time to let go of wanting my old self-care routine back but I had to work with where I was.  I realized that if I went upstairs at night a few minutes before everyone else and read a book, wrote in a gratitude journal (I got this one for only $6.99) or did some relaxation exercises, that was enough to help me find a little inner calm.  So I made that my new self-care routine.  It got me through those tough months.  

Eventually, as the kids grew and their schedules changed I was able to start doing a few workouts per week at home while they napped, ones I now share with all my mommy clients.  I was also able to get in a few naps and shower regularly (you’re welcome).   And now, a little over two years later, I still make self-care a priority. I may never have the time or freedom to work out two hours per day or catch a happy hour without planning it weeks in advance, but I am scheduling enough time for me to recharge and making sure it happens. 

For anyone in the middle of trying to figure out this balancing act of Mommy Self-care, here are a few tips that helped me along the way:

Set Goals and Have a Plan. 

It may be a goal of a shower, a workout and a nap. It may be eating a healthy meal and reading a chapter in a new book (Bunmi Laditan’sConfessions of a Domestic Failure was silly and perfect for me at the time).  Find whatever you feel is beneficial and attainable for you then work towards those goals by setting specific times and boundaries around that time.  

Let Go of What You Can’t Control. 

When you have children to care for sometimes things out of your control like illness or cranky growth spurts come out of nowhere and get in the way of your self-care routine for that day or week.  Because self-care is about long term physical and mental health, it is important to not let one set back send you into a downward spiral.  Support your family and then make next week even better. 

Eat Healthy.

Don’t underestimate the power of your food choices when it comes to easy and attainable mommy self-care.  Cutting out processed foods and sugar, eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and including some helpful vitamins can improve your energy and mood incredibly.  I would stock up on ingredients for 7 Crock-Pot Freezer Meals, double it and have 14 healthy freezer meals ready to go for when I was too tired to cook dinner. This is something I still do when I know I have a busy week coming up and bonus – it helps our family save on our food budget! 

Stay Positive.  

Don’t doubt that you will find yourself again.  Remind yourself that the children will eventually grow and become more independent and open more options but for a while self-care might just mean taking a shower, and that’s ok! 

Let Go of Mom Guilt. 

By taking care of yourself you are being a good parent and setting the example for you children so they’ll learn to take care of themselves too. You’ll also have more patience for them and everyone else! 

And for those Mommas with older children who feel they have lost themselves along the way…

It’s Never Too Late.

Start now.  In the morning, before you help anyone else with anything, go on a walk.  Even for just 10 minutes.  Listen to the birds, feel the breeze and take that time for yourself.  With a self-care plan, you can find balance and get back to where you want to be.  

7 Easy Crock-Pot Freezer Meal Recipes

I often recommend Crock-Pot meals for my clients who struggle with having the time and energy to cook a healthy dinner after their busy day.  Here are my 7 favorite gluten-free, dairy-free, and family friendly recipes. With just a little planning you can prep these healthy recipes in under 90 minutes, no chopping required! 

Dijon Pork

  • 1.5 lb pork loin
  • 16 oz fresh or frozen green beans
  • 3 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • thyme
  • salt/pepper

Italian Chicken

  • 1.5 lbs chicken (I use half thighs and half breasts)
  • 1 bag spinach
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt/pepper

Asian Chicken

  • 1.5 lbs chicken
  • 6 cups frozen veggies
  • ½ cup gluten-free soy sauce
  • ¼ ketchup
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • pepper

Chicken Fajitas

  • 1.5 lbs chicken 
  • 6 cups frozen veggies
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 ts cumin
  • 1 ts paprika
  • lime juice
  • salt/pepper

BBQ Pork and Carrots

  • 2 lbs pork
  • 4 cups (~32 oz) carrots
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp parprika
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Balsamic Beef Roast

  • 2 lbs beef chuck shoulder or pot roast
  • 4 cups (~32oz) carrots
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt
  • 2 cups broth

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

  • 16oz Coleman chicken meatballs
  • 6 cups frozen veggies
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 3 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce

Just combine all ingredients in 1 gallon freezer bags and they are ready to store. These meals are good for up to 3 months in the freezer.  When you are ready to use them simply thaw in the fridge overnight and then dump them in the Crock-Pot on low for 6-8 hours.  When it’s time for dinner you will have a delicious, healthy meal ready to eat with out any hassle and minimal clean up.  On days when I workout and want to add some extra carbohydrates, we either cook a pot of rice to serve on the side or serve them with corn tortillas taco style.  Otherwise they are all moderately low in carbs to help with weight-loss goals. 

I also highly recommend using a wholesale store like Costco or Sam’s Club to buy ingredients in bulk to add saving money to the benefit of these meals. I doubled these recipes and paid only $180 at Costco for mostly organic ingredients for all 14 meals. That will make enough for dinner for our family of four plus leftover lunches for my husband for two weeks.